Lauren Grusenmeyer leads us through her stellar design for Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels

17 November 2017

We last featured the work of graphic designer Lauren Grusenmeyer in 2016, when her altogether more subdued in black and white. These days, a quick scroll through Lauren’s Instagram account reveals an obsession with primary colour and shape honed through a Matisse-inspired cut-out-and-stick approach.

The Brussels-based graphic designer studied in Ghent, then took a masters in Amsterdam at the Sandberg Institute, set up shop with Ines Cox as Cox & Grusenmeyer and then struck out on her own. Lauren’s work has earned her an extensive client list from restaurants to museums, for whom she has developed logos, identities, illustration, performances, websites, exhibition designs, posters and books. Among project after impressive project, it was Lauren’s work for The Paleis voor Schone Kunsten (Palais des Beaux-Arts), an arts museum in Brussels, Belgium also known as “Bozar” which excited us most. We asked Lauren to tell us the ideas behind her latest identity for the museum for the exhibition Power & Other Things. Indonesia & Art 1835 — Now.

How has your style as a designer developed since we last featured your — then monochromatic — work on It’s Nice That?
As I am always in the process of work itself, it is hard for me to really pinpoint how my way of working is actually developing. Neither could I describe a stylistic evolution. However, I do think that as I approach further and further, my practice becomes closer and closer to myself. That is to say, day by day I gain greater acquaintance with myself, with what works for me, and how I like to do things. That, I do think has a direct influence on my work. My work as such, has become more enjoyable, more fluid, more lively and much an expression of how I like to do things.

How did your relationship with Bozar first develop?
This is the fourth time I’ve develop the graphic design of an exhibition in the Brussels museum Bozar. My relationship started with them when I was invited to work on the graphic part of a scenography design for Imagine Europe; In Search of New Narratives which I did in collaboration with the Italian architects Piovenefabi. Imagine Europe was a very enjoyable collaboration. Piovenefabi developed a series of colourful curtains that are reminiscent of flags. Additionally they developed a series of modular furniture which came in the exhibition spaces. Together we decided on a colour scheme for each artist lab. We did not want to use exhibition texts as we felt it did not fit the exhibition’s content. We felt it was important the whole exhibition would be modular and ephemeral in a way. That’s why we decided to design a poster for every artist lab which would function as an exhibition text the public could take with them. We asked every artist to deliver one statement and strong image representative for their project. The colours of the flags became the for the posters and as such tied everything together. We printed these posters in heigh numbers and distributed them in the exhibition spaces. The public could take as many as they wished. It was a very funny view to see all the exhibition visitors walking around with these huge rolls of posters.

The second project I did was a youth exhibition connected to Imagine Europe called Next Generation, Please! After that I also assisted Joris Kritis for the scenography design of Power of the Avant-Garde in collaboration with Richard Venlet. Doing these in between projects has given me a lot of experience and knowledge on scenography design. It has become on of the things I enjoy doing most. Working in a large group of people, in between the artists and the curator, in collaboration with architects and art-handlers always gives me a lot energy. These projects are processes that also take a lot of time. Seeing how everything comes together over an intense working period can be really very satisfying.

What was the brief behind Power & Other Things. Indonesia & Art 1835-Now?
The exhibition, curated by Riksa Afiaty and Charles Essche, explores the recent and often turbulent history of Indonesia, seen through the works of 21 Indonesian and Western artists. The Dutch colonialist period and Japanese occupation, the status of women and immigration are among the themes this exhibition tackles in order to understand contemporary Indonesia.

I was invited by Europalia to design the graphic layer of the exhibition and assist them with the larger scenography design. As this exhibition consisted mainly of installations, a real scenography design – in the classic meaning of the word – was not necessary. However the curators did want a strong graphic backbone in order to keep the variety of projects together.

Additionally I designed the catalogue of the exhibition, a site specific design for a thematic cloud visualisation and a folder which translated this visualisation into a comprehensive and easy to carry folder.

Can you talk us through the major typographic and design decisions behind the exhibition and catalogue?

The identity of this project is based on two elements: type and colour. For the typography I did an in-depth research into oriental influenced type designs. I wanted to find a type that really reflected Indonesia’s nation. However that proved to be a difficult task since Indonesia is a very layered country consisting of many islands with many traditions and various cultures. To speak of one Indonesia is simply impossible. Since Indonesia was colonised for many years I decided to look at it’s stylistic influence on western type designs. That led me to art deco fonts that were heavily influenced by orientalism. Eventually I chose a font designed by Mecanorma. It is a melting pot of different glyphs that look like art deco fonts from the collonial area and simply bizarre glyphs that feel unnatural to the western eye. The glyphs also alternate heavily in width – a typical art deco feature. I used this font for all the display typography. However I also need a good font for body text, so I added very readable grotesk like family designed by Commercial Type.

In a large and long room we decided together with the curators to design a thematic data-visualisation linking the various works in the exhibition to one another in order to better understand the exhibition. I divided the wall in the ten different themes and gave each theme a backdrop colour. The referenced projects were then illustrated with simple black and white images linking back to the projects in the exhibition. These colours would become a basis for the rest of the exhibition design. We reused them as backdrop colours for the exhibition texts, highlighting the different art works as such. On the cover of the catalogue we reused these colours in a randomised composition. We placed the colours in a flux composition, a theme we reused for the images in the catalogue.

Overall this was a great project to contribute to as a designer. I was given a great amount of freedom and responsibility in making design decisions. Aside from that the curators were great to work with and the Europalia team are very supportive and professional organisation. A shout out to everyone there!

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About the Author

Bryony Stone

Bryony joined It's Nice That as Deputy Editor in August 2016, following roles at Mother, Secret Cinema, LAW, Rollacoaster and Wonderland. She later became Acting Editor at It's Nice That, before leaving in late 2018.

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